How Yemi Cardoso evaded Lagos State governorship seat


ROTIMI DUROJAIYE writes that the nominated candidate for the position of Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Olayemi Michael Cardoso, would have succeeded President Bola Tinubu as the governor of Lagos State in 2007 when he was offered the deputy governor’s position when Kofo Bucknor Akerele vacated the office, but he declined.

Uba Group

President Bola Tinubu on Friday approved the nomination of Olayemi Cardoso to serve as the new Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for a term of five years at the first instance, pending his confirmation by the Nigerian Senate.

Presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, said the directive was in conformity with Section 8 (1) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act, 2007, which vests in the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the authority to appoint the Governor and four Deputy Governors for the CBN, subject to confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Reuters quoted government sources on Friday that the suspended Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, resigned last month, effectively clearing the way for President Tinubu to replace him.
Emefiele was suspended as the CBN Governor by President Tinubu in June and later detained by state police and charged with procurement fraud.

The President also approved the nomination of four new Deputy Governors of the CBN, for a term of five years at the first instance, pending their confirmation by the Nigerian Senate. They include Nnana Usoro, Muhammad Abdullahi Dattijo, Philip Ikeazor and Bala M. Bello.

However, the biography of a former Lagos State Governor and immediate past Minister of Works, Babatunde Raji Fashola, has revealed that Cardoso was one of Tinubu’s favourites for succession in 2007.

The book, “FASHOLA, THE NIGERIAN DREAM: A POLITICAL BIOGRAPHY” co-written by the founding Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of the Sun Publishing Limited, Mike Awoyinfa with his late friend, Dimgba Igwe, is a pulsating rendition of the life of a reluctant politician who became the poster boy of Lagos politics.

In this biography, Awoyinfa and his late friend, Igwe brought their human angle features and investigative journalism skills to bear in this untold story of Fashola, a child of destiny whose parents met in England, fell in love but the love affair turned sour when the mother discovered she was pregnant.

The father wanted the pregnancy aborted but the mother returned to Nigeria to deliver the future governor of Lagos State and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The story followed Fashola from his difficult childhood, escaping classes to play football which set him back academically, to the epiphany of his father taking him to a mechanic workshop and telling him: “No more school, this is where you belong now.”

It was a wakeup call, an effective shock treatment which brought a turnaround in the life of Fashola who then sat up. He graduated in law from the University of Benin and went to work in a law firm where he was a rising star until destiny landed him in government as Chief of Staff to his predecessor, Bola Tinubu, who eventually became the President of Nigeria.

The behind-the-scenes story of how Fashola became governor by brainwave and sheer serendipity is told in the book, plus the rancour his choice generated.

As governor, he surprised everyone with landmark achievements that became the benchmark for leadership all over Nigeria.

According to Fashola in the book, by 2005, about two years before Tinubu’s tenure ended, his close associates within and outside his cabinet had started positioning themselves for the great succession scramble to the governorship throne.

“Within the cabinet potential aspirants were cautiously trying to court support for their own candidacy. Cabinet meetings turned into subtle campaign grounds, although dressed in the convivial robe of camaraderie. But behind those taunts and bouts of laughter masked serious intentions. Gradually, battle lines were drawn without anybody saying so. Soon jokes turned into seriousness, into campaign structures. For the politically discerning, the succession struggle in Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s cabinet had begun,” Fashola recalled.

The authors said, unlike the politically indifferent Fashola, Tinubu could read the handwriting on the wall.

“For sure, the burden for who would succeed him was there, but he also had work to do; this was his last tenure, the last opportunity for him as governor to register his impact and legacies by which he wished to be remembered. In the Ten-Point Agenda, the master plan that was his political compass, there were many things still waiting to be executed. Some of them were achievable within his tenure, but many were simply outside the scope of his tenure. The Ten-Point Agenda is a strategic relay journey. You stop at a point and another person continues from where you stopped,” Fashola said.

The former Lagos State Governor, however said that in 2005, Tinubu’s administration suffered a major setback when the pioneer Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Yemi Cardoso, voluntarily left to return into the private sector after six years on the job.


“Cardoso who also holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and management from Harvard University is an astute banker, a former executive vice president of Citibank, and one of the technocrats behind the state’s economic blueprint, apart from setting up the framework for economic planning, budget monitoring and due process in the state – a legacy which remains till date.

As a Lagos State indigene, Cardoso not only shared Tinubu’s fondness for efficient financial systems and due process, he was indeed, clearly one of Tinubu’s favourites for succession.

“Preparatory to such possibility, Cardoso was offered the deputy governor’s position when Kofo Bucknor Akerele vacated the office, but he declined. He was a technocrat who clearly had no stomach for the jiggery-pokery of politics. In 2005, he voluntarily left his job and returned to financial consultancies in the private sector. He left not just because of his aversion to politics; many also believed that he was potentially frightened by the intimidatory tactics of the federal opposition which unleashed all forces against the state, threatening to unleash the dreaded squad of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on the state.

“If Cardoso had remained in office and become the deputy governor, the succession problems that confronted Tinubu might have been averted. Many of Tinubu’s associates, including BRF, believed that if Cardoso had accepted the deputy governor’s offer, stepping up as the next governor would have been a natural progression”

“Cardoso had no stomach for the swashbuckling drama of EFCC onslaught and didn’t want to wait to find out! Perhaps, he was following the footsteps of Mr. Wale Edun, the Finance Commissioner, also an ex-World Bank technocrat and co-founder of Investment Banking and Trust Company (IBTC) who also voluntarily withdrew from the job in the first quarter of 2004, ostensibly on health grounds, but possibly because of the same concerns as Cardoso.

“If Cardoso had remained in office and become the deputy governor, the succession problems that confronted Tinubu might have been averted. Many of Tinubu’s associates, including BRF, believed that if Cardoso had accepted the deputy governor’s offer, stepping up as the next governor would have been a natural progression.

“If Yemi had become the deputy governor, no other candidate would have run for election in the cabinet. He would have been the natural governor. If there were going to be an office that was open, it would have been that of the deputy governor. At least that is my assessment,” Fashola asserted.

Who is Yemi Cardoso?

Olayemi Micheal Cardoso is a banker and chartered stockbroker. He served as the former chairman of Citibank Nigeria for 12 years until his resignation in 2022. He was the Commissioner for Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget in 1999. He was the Chairman of the board of the African Venture Philanthropy Alliance. He has served as a board member of MRS Oil formerly known as Texaco Ltd.

Cardoso studied managerial and administrative studies at the Aston University, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree
He has a Master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School in public administration.

He is also a former executive lead at Harvard Kennedy School alumni association
Cardoso pioneered the Ehingbeti Lagos economic summit in the year 2000 as a platform that enabled business leaders and other multi-stakeholders.

His father, Felix Bankole Cardoso, was the first indigenous Accountant General of the Federation of Nigeria in 1963 and the first indigenous Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Barclays Bank of Nigeria shortly after joining the bank in 1972.

His parents were descendants of Brazilian returnees and came from prominent families from Popo Aguda, Lagos.

What Cardoso’s appointment means to financial experts

Analysts at CardinalStone Research said the nominee’s experience in the fiscal space suggests that he may be more amenable to driving policies that could speed up the realisation of set Federal Government targets.

“Dr Cardoso has a good track record in policy development and execution, given his pioneering role in the origination of the Lagos 10-point economic agenda. This experience fits the current context, with Nigeria embarking on its biggest policy reforms in decades.

“The appointment puts an end to uncertainties regarding the leadership at the apex bank. We recall that the President hinted at a thorough ‘house cleaning’ at the CBN during his inauguration and eventually removed the then-governor in charge in June, leaving the bank under interim leadership for about three months.

“Given the president’s pro-market disposition, the market is likely to react positively to this news on account of the expected policy alignment between the nominated CBN Governor and the president’s economic team.

“The appointment also suggests a strong resolve to achieve the long-term sustainability of the key monetary priorities of the current administration. These priorities include: Clearing the existing FX backlog, which was recently estimated at $10 billion; driving unification of exchange rates across the country; normalising the application and use of monetary policy tools; and boosting financial inclusion and credit creation,” the experts at CardinalStone Research, said.

With the nomination of Cardoso pending his formal confirmation by the National Assembly, it is abundantly clear that President Tinubu remains the best Nigerian leader that has a flair for always looking out for the very best brains in the land to surround him in governance.